Friday, May 06, 2005

howard quits

Well, that's another Tory leader we've seen the back off. Michael Howard has just done exactly what John Major and William Hague did before him, ie stand down immediately after losing a general election. In this case, hard to understand it as a decision, for the following - fairly obvious - reasons

1. What good did it do the tories when previous leaders abdicated this way? None - it left them directionless and vague when the Labour government looked purposeful after being re-elected.

2. Is there anyone to replace him? No, still not yet. Davis, Letwin or Fox would be a disaster. It's too soon for David Cameron or Michael Gove. Why not stay on eighteen months and 'blood the youngsters' in his shadow cabinet first? And don't get me started on the 'why have they continually sidelined Ken Clarke?' question.

3. What about Howard's credibility. His resigning immediate despite a not disasterous poll is a pretty dishonest action after running a hugely presidental campaign which centred on Howard and his desire to match Blair. If he wasn't prepared to stick it out he shouldn't have campaigned on such a personal ticket. I'd feel pretty let-down if I was a tory and had rallied behind Howard (far fetched, I know).

4. He didn't do all that badly. Candidly, not a single tory expected him to win. It wasn't possible. His campaign may have been despicably willing to appeal to the baser instincts, but you just watch: his successor will do the same. And the fact is that until he resigned this morning it was Blair everyone was regarding as the wounded party after this election, even if he did win. If Howard had stayed on he could have said:

- "We really hit Blair hard and he knows how we feel about him now."
- "We significantly reduced his majority."
- "We succeeded in setting the campaign agenda and may be able to continue to set the tone of debate".
- "We've got plenty of new MPs raring to go against a tired Labour government."
- "Now that his backbenchers have more power we can defeat Blair's agenda more frequently, and enjoy watching Galloway make the PM squirm."
- "Despite their talk of being the 'real alternative', we saw off the Lib Dems too."

Instead, the message he sends by resigning is that he confirms all the alternatives to the argument above - that Blair is the victor, he's seen the tories off, it's still a one-horse race and the tories can't keep up. Four hours ago Blair looked like a weakened PM up against an improving opposition. Now all of a sudden he's the big winner with a reasonable majority - who's seen off his biggest electoral threat.

And the tories are nowhere. Weird.


Powerful Pierre said...

I don't think he's going straight away. I heard he was staying until the party has an opportunity to change the leadership process.

BB said...

I bet Stalin said that a few times!